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Georgia Judge considers new child support program

Georgia Judge John Simpson of Carroll County is, according to a recent Times-Georgian article, currently considering implementing a program to deal with the problem of nonworking fathers who are incarcerated for failing to pay child support.

Judge Carroll hopes to form a program like that used in Jefferson County, Colorado, in which a certain number of inmates are allowed to participate in a work-release program. The program allows inmates who have fallen behind on child support payments to pay a discounted fee in order to speak about the importance of being a responsible father. The program, which usually costs inmates $14 per day, is reduced to $1 per day for participating inmates.

One court team supervisor for Jefferson County Child Support Services said that charging $1 per day helped the county and alleviated inmates who could not pay child support.

The idea behind the program, which has been in place for two years, was to ensure that families continue to be supported

In tracking information on child support payments, court officials in Jefferson County found that 60 percent of inmates owing child support were not paying it. Among those accepted into the work-release program, however, 70 percent continued paying child support six months after their release.

January 2009, Carroll County formed the first "problem solving" child support court, which had the purpose of dealing with parents in contempt of court for failure to pay child support. The court has been a success, as attested by consistent payment among its participants. The program assists participants in maintaining a job and making payments, and decreases the taxpayer burden since participants have decreased jail time and jail and court costs.

Many deadbeat dads don't have the resources to make regular payments when they are arrested, and face long periods of jail time. Prior to implementing the program, inmates stayed in county jail an average of 100 days. Participants in the program can graduate by paying child support consistently for six months and by demonstrating improvement in maintaining employment and showing a willingness to get education.

Participants in the program, according to one study, collect 10 times more child support than a control group, making their performance 1,000 percent better.

A program like that used in Jefferson County, Colorado, together with Georgia's own unique "problem-solving" court program, could potentially bring about significant improvements in child support collections in the state.

Source: Times-Georgian, "Inmate and child support program under consideration," Amanda Thomas, 16 Mar 2011.

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